Labour’s health and adult social care spokesperson, Councillor Anna Perrett, has welcomed national Labour policies to scrap prescription charges and train more GPs. Moves to increase GP training places by almost 50% will, when they are fully trained, lead to an estimated extra 27m appointments available each year. This is in response to calls from the Royal College of GPs and would reverse the first sustained fall in GPs nationally for 50 years.
Cllr. Perrett said; “We all know here in York how long it can take to get an appointment these days and action is needed now to ease pressure in the system. This pressure sadly is leading to many GPs deciding to call it a day, and leave their jobs. Earlier this year, in a survey of almost 1000 GPs, more than 4 in 10 said they planned to leave the profession within five years, with 50% saying they had brought forward plans to leave due to increased workload. This policy makes sense and addresses the GP shortage problem rather than hobbling on, as the current government is doing, pretending everything is ok”.
Prescription charges are levied on most adult prescriptions, with some exemptions for ‘life saving’ medications. However, the list of exemptions was drawn up in 1968, leading to criticism today that the current system is unfair and illogical. The only change to the exemption list since the list was created is for prescriptions linked to cancer treatment, introduced under the 2009 Labour government.
Cllr. Perrett continues; “We welcome this policy agreed at Labour’s recent party conference to ensure everyone has free access to the medicines they need. The decision on whether or not someone needs a particular prescription drug should be down to the judgment of GPs, not down to an individual’s ability to pay.
“An advanced nation like ours has the ability to make prescriptions free of charge, which would bring it in line with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. In those countries, prescriptions have been free for around ten years. It’s high time we valued the health of people in England every bit as much as the governing Assemblies of our neighbours do”.
Income from presciptions in 2017-18 was £575m, which amounts to less than 0.5% of the NHS budget. But research suggests prescription charges could put off as many as a third of people from taking the medicines that would help them to get better. The Prescription Charges Coalition, which includes the MS Society and Disability Rights UK, has argued that prescription charges should end for long term conditions.
“This boils down to the kind of society we want to be”, argues Cllr. Perrett. “Just as people should not be having to go to food banks, people who are in financial difficulty should not be having to calculate whether or not they can afford their prescriptions. We must value every person, regardless of their means. If people face these kinds of choices, it is the system that’s broken and the system that must change”.